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Image credit: Cardrona

Kids Central at Cardrona

If there’s one thing Ben Dark learned on a recent trip to New Zealand, it’s that you have to take your kids on at least one snow-skiing holiday. Nothing can compare, both for kids and parents.

I’ve been lucky enough to ski Queenstown New Zealand before, and in my opinion, Cardrona is the best all round mountain, especially if skiing in a group of varying abilities. And Cardrona Alpine Resort is top of my list for a family holiday. It’s a frozen playground for kids and parents alike.

What’s it got?
For a start, our kids (seven year old Digger, and four year old Daisy) were absolutely enthralled with the whole skiing experience. And as for us as parents? We got as many butterflies in the stomach and as many thrills as they did. Plus a bit of heart-swelling pride and utter joy at watching them go from complete novices to tearing up the powder in just a couple of days to accomplished-looking skiers in the matter of a week.

On top of that Paula and I had a relaxing holiday, with as much skiing time to ourselves as we wanted. We packed our woollies last September for the last ten days of the 2012 NZ ski season – a more comfortable and less busy time on the slopes than peak times. When we landed at Queenstown, we were met by blue skies and crisp spring weather with views of snow-capped mountains all around.

We elected to stay in Queenstown, and drive each day to the resort, an easy one-hour drive from Queenstown through glorious mountain scenery. No sooner had we finished answering the what is?/where does?/how cold? snow questions than we found ourselves above the fluffy white clouds, parked at the base of the Cardrona Alpine Resort and lifts, smiling our silly heads off.

First up we booked Daisy into Ski Kindy, which was a chalet full of cosy, colourful rooms packed with activities, warm food/drinks and exceptionally caring, smiling female staff members. The toddlers (up to four years old) are dressed by staff (helmets, goggles, boots, skis and poles included) and taught to ski, between making snowmen and having snowball fights with the giant penguin.

Digger went into the kids’ club (five – 12 years), which is much the same as the kindy but with more emphasis on skiing. Typically they spend the morning on the slopes, come home for a hot lunch and a movie, then go back out for the afternoon.

Paula’s and my plan didn’t vary much for the duration of the trip. There is a vast array of ski runs to suit all levels of skiers, and electronic ski lift passes are issued which makes it easy to get on the lifts without big waits.

Typically after we dropped the kids off, we would have a one hour ski together, usually dropping in for a hot chocolate at a cabin on the side of Captains Run, before going back over to the resort to both do a two-hour lesson. We both found the lessons worthwhile, improving both our confidence and technique.

Before lunch we’d check on the kids, who had never skied before, to hear their stories of daring and bravado. It was so nice that they were having such a great time and they were more than happy for us to leave again and have more time to ourselves. We enjoyed our lunches together without the kids, chatting and laughing over a couple of beers in the sunshine.

We’d then head back out to the slopes together, but invariably by day three not for too long, as we’d want to have a decent ski with the kids. It is really amazing how quickly they pick it up, and watching their turns and jumps at speed brought tears of pride to our eyes.

About four o’clock we’d leave the mountain and pull in to the Cardrona Hotel at the bottom of the mountain where it was ales for us and marshmallows for the kids to toast around the open fire. Some nights we’d have an early dinner before heading back to our accommodation in Queenstown. And we’d all sleep like babies, blissfully exhausted.

We stayed at the Alta Apartments, three-level, three-bedroom accommodation with sensational balcony views of Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped mountains, within easy walking distance of town. There was a great kitchen, spacious lounge and dining room, cable TV and Wi-Fi, a king-sized very comfortable master bedroom with ensuite, and two more queen sized bedrooms with family-sized bathroom. The apartment was heated throughout, with ground-floor garage, drying room and laundry.

The duration of our trip was ten days. We alternated two days skiing with two days off, to catch our breath and have a good look around town and its surroundings.

Queenstown is a very pretty place with endless photo opportunities. The kids had a ball in the beautiful parks and playgrounds near the central lake, and we taste-tested New Zealand’s gourmet ice-creams while watching street performers balance on high ropes.

To add to the adventure, we decided to climb aboard one of KJet’s jet boats, which leave the main town pier every hour, flying across the lake and along the braided channels of the Shotover River at speeds of up to 85kph - quite an adrenalin rush. Luckily, the company provides life jackets and spray jackets.

This holiday, without a doubt, provided some of the best family moments we have ever had.

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